Posts Tagged ‘boat driving’

Jim Forster: Barefooting from the Driver’s Perspective

Sunday, October 13th, 2013


 When competing in a barefoot tournament, a lot of focus as a skier, is whether you are going to get the pull from the driver that you are expecting. We are all familiar when practicing at home with the start, speed and boat path as we usually train with the same skiers. All of a sudden, you are faced with an unfamiliar driver which can put added pressure on and cause yourself distraction. As I have stated in a previous article that I wrote, it’s a good training technique to train with different drivers as this will help you to adapt to different pulls that you are not accustomed to and remove the uncertainty.

         As a Level 2 Driver and a competitive barefooter, I have the unique perspective of how we as drivers think and what is expected of us. I really enjoy driving and can tell you that for me, I put a lot of pressure on myself as I want to give every skier exactly what they want. If a skier misses a back deepwater start, a toe up or a back tumble, to name a few, I feel personally responsible and will notify the Chief communicator if I have any doubt that the pull was not to specification. A lot is expected of us and we are tasked with performing with as few mistakes as possible. Experience plays a big role in becoming a solid driver and cannot be gained overnight. As a driver, I want to make the skier feel comfortable and gain their confidence, but at the same time, adhere to the rules. When pulling my friends in practice, I strive to give them exactly the pull they want and also to drive with the same precision as one would expect in a tournament.

        I would advise prospective drivers to learn all the different phases of acceleration and to smoothly achieve speed level off as this makes a big difference to the skier behind the boat. You want to learn to accelerate smoothly up to the called speed, but not overshoot it…..the throttle pull back can cause the skier to fall if it is severe enough. This takes a little practice and can actually be done even with Zero Off speed control devices. Also as equally important to prospective drivers, is to learn the rules as set forth by the World Barefoot Council (WBC). These can be found in the WBC Technical Rulebook. Chapter 15 Towboats, deals with some of the more important ones, but others can be found in the other chapters. You need to be knowledgeable on what is expected of you as an official and also gain confidence that you can perform any start and pull any speed.

       Probably the most difficult start to pull is the back tumble up to one……..there are only a handful of skiers that perform this start, but what really helps the driver successfully pull it, is for the skier to call an RPM rather than a MPH or KPH for the level off speed. This also applies for those skiers that aren’t really solid on their back deepwater starts……..the RPM reference I have found, enables the skier to achieve a nice, smooth plant. Something else I encounter is pressure on myself from the judges in the boat, as they are also watching my boat path and acceleration, they can be critical at times, but a good driver has to be able to listen to, and accept criticism. This is all part of becoming a better driver and at the same time, gives .skiers a good tournament experience.

         I hope that this has given you an insight to what drivers experience………the next time the boat pulls up to you at the starting dock, you can be confident the driver will be waiting to please!

Ariana Koehler: Driving Keith St. Onge

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

I have been very fortunate to grow up on a lake my whole life. The water, boats, and skiing have all ran through my blood for as long as I can remember. Kailey and I were taught how to drive the boat when we were young, and soon enough we learned how to pull each other skiing. We would take turns driving as the other would trick ski, swivel ski, disc, or whatever else just to mess around. The barefooting however, was usually driven by my dad so he was there to coach us as well.

When we are not on Lake Como being coached by our dad, Kailey and I train at the World Barefoot Center and there is one day I remember quite clearly. On a normal day of skiing on Lake Conine, Keith took out my sister and I for an afternoon set. After the two of us were done skiing, Keith decided that he too wanted to go for a run. I didn’t think much of it, assuming that we were going to go grab someone back at the house to drive. Then when he looked at me and gave me his speed, my heart dropped. This was about to be my first time pulling a barefooter and it wasn’t just any barefooter… this was Keith St.Onge, the world’s best barefooter! Sitting there for a second, I realized that he wasn’t kidding around at all, so I hopped in the drivers seat and asked for some advise. We took one quick pass for me to practice first, then he said, “That will do” and jumped in the water. As he got out of the boat, Kailey leaned over and shouted, “Nice knowing ya!” I rolled my eyes and listened to his reply as he said, “Nice knowing me? I can always let go of the rope if something goes wrong, you’re in the boat and can’t do anything if she runs into shore.” Hearing this conversation was not necessarily a confidence booster as I was already incredibly nervous. This didn’t stop me though as I continued to pull the line tight and wait for Keith to get ready. Then I drove for a few passes, watching him do slalom in the mirror. I didn’t do too bad of a job, however, no matter how bad you mess up, it’s almost impossible to make Keith look bad. He said the first pass was a little hot, but the rest were just fine. Thank goodness he approved!

Looking back at the first time I drove for a barefooter, I always smile. I was so nervous, but have changed so much since then. Now, Kailey and I regularly pull each other barefooting and driver for people as we teach lessons. I also work at a marina now, where I drive all sorts of boats every day and often have to teach people how to drive boats. From that first pull I learned a lot, but it was just the start of something that I don’t even have to think twice about anymore.

~Ariana Koehler


Boat Driving 101 with Dave Miller

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Much like being a great barefoot skier, being a great barefoot driver requires many hours of training, practice and most of all desire to do it well.  Do you have what it takes?

I’m sure you’ve all been out skiing when everything just felt perfect. The pull on the start was great, the speed was “spot on”, the boat path was straight when it needed to be and all you had to do was concentrate on your tumble turn, one foot, toe-hold  or turn….nothing else was on your mind except for the trick you were working on. On the other hand if you are always wondering if the driver is going to drown you on the start, not get your speed right or give you a bad line (not straight) maybe your driver is in need of some education so that you can stay focused on the trick you are working on, therefore advancing your barefoot skills quicker.

Ever wonder why you often ski so well at ski school? Most instructors at the best ski schools have years of experience driving all levels of skier and have become very good drivers.

How can you improve your driving so you can help your skier advance quicker? There’s no simple answer but in the same way a skier can improve their skills and understanding of a trick, technique or body position by watching other skiers (one of the biggest benefits of a ski school in my opinion) a driver can do the same thing by riding along in a ski school boat or participating as an official at a barefoot tourney and watching the drivers. It’s not easy to become an ABC Senior Driver or a WBC Level 1 driver but to get to that level we’ve all taken suggestions and constructive criticism from our peers, skiers and other officials and have the desire to do our best for every skier whether it be a training run or the finals at the World Championships.

All of the respected drivers I know are more than happy to share tips, tricks and ideas on how to provide a great pull on the start (watch the skier and give them the speed they need at the right time), how to hold speed (try using the tachometer in conjunction with the speedometer), drive a straight line (pick a spot at the far end of your run and use gentle course corrections) and being honest when you didn’t actually give a good pull.

Having an open minded and “willing to learn” attitude to become a better driver will help your skier advance quicker and safer. It doesn’t matter if they are learning a front deep for the first time, trying to get up backwards, perfect a multiple turn or beat KSO in wakes or SmallZ in jump–a good driver is key and a GREAT driver makes it even easier!

Dave Miller (who has pulled 10+ ABC or World Record runs)

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